After a lengthy pandemic-fueled delay, the county’s “Smart Communities” program is now being rolled out and New Paltz village trustees are all in. Modeled after the “Climate-Smart” state program, this is a county funding source with money for consultants and opportunities for partnerships that, it’s hoped, will make it easier to resolve housing issues in participating communities. Ulster is one of many counties with a housing crisis, resulting from legacy philosophies around development and increasing pressure of migration from larger, urban areas.
Since the onset of the pandemic, rents in New Paltz have skyrocketed, both from that migration pressure and as a reaction to trustees considering a “good cause” tenancy law that would have included a mechanism to limit annual increases. The village doesn’t have very much housing specifically for senior citizens, the only age demographic that can be legally singled out, and there is evidently enough interest in off-campus housing for students that some 600 units are being contemplated just south of the college.
Passing a resolution was just the first step toward certification in this program. A housing coordinator and task force will have to be appointed to oversee the registration process. From that point, advancing in the program will entail complete “housing-smart actions,” such as making it easier to build accessory apartments, regulating short-term rentals, developing and implementing a housing action plan. The path to the platinum level is a shorter one than with the Climate-Smart plan, and the rewards are — at this point — also smaller. For now, it’s largely limited to support from county employees and paid consultants, with a promise of “more to come.”
Trustees in New Paltz clearly value what’s on offer, and may have been the first to sign on with a resolution. Data and surveys suggest that large numbers of village residents are paying more than half their income on housing — up to 57%, in one survey. Anything more than a third of income is considered a “burden,” and more than half is an “extreme burden” on those individuals and families.
Learn about “New Paltz 2030: Our Climate Action Plan” on Tuesday, October 11 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the New Paltz Community Center, located at 3 Veterans Drive.